In Retrospect: Quadrophenia (1979)

C.D. Calderon, Staff Writer

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It’s difficult to talk about the Sixties.  To do so is to discuss and enter another world.  It was so long ago that Millennials today have no real concept of it.  The great irony is how much their current style of living is so dependent on what happened a long time ago.

I don’t know how possible it is to “relive the past”.  However, director Franc Roddam did an admirable job with his 1979 film adaptation of Quadrophenia.  The original concept had its start in the mind of singer/songwriter Pete Townshend and the band the Who.  Townshend came up with the idea as double record album that would be a tribute to the Rock and Roll era of the early Sixties, and the youth movement that made up that first big musical explosion.  The name of that movement was known as Mod, or the Mods.  It is around this group, at this particular moment of time, that is at the heart of both the album and its film adaptation.

At the story’s heart is the average figure of Jimmy Cooper, a young guy growing up in 1964 London.  The plot follows Jimmy’s coming of age as his world stands poised on the cup of revolution.  Rock and Roll has come into its own, and so have the Mods.  Jimmy thinks of himself as part of this gang as possible escape and rebellion from his working-class existence.  The theme of escape is threaded through the whole movie’s runtime.  From the moment we meet him, Jimmy is on the run.  His goal is to find a point of significance, perhaps one that he can’t even define to himself.

As Jim explains to an old friend fresh out of the army, “I don’t want to be the same everybody else.  That’s why I’m a Mod, see?  I mean, you got to be somebody.”  What Jim does from then on is to try and find his place in the world.  The rest of the film chronicles a series of building disappointments as Jimmy finds himself let down again and again by family, friends, and peers in his search for authenticity.  The one constant appears to be the pounding background soundtrack of Rock, yet it’s difficult to know just what that sound means.  Still Jimmy continues to press on as the music and events towards his final epiphany.

In the best tradition of a Hero’s Journey, what Jimmy is able to learn in terms of self-discovery is something he keeps to himself.  It is possible however that while he never be “one of the faces”, Jimmy can still be someone who makes a difference for his own life, and just possibly those of others.

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